Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani on Tuesday admonished the media for having "reported without any verification" that Gul Sama — a minor girl from Dadu — had been "stoned to death" and that a jirga had allegedly issued the karo-kari (honour killing) verdict.
"No evidence has been found so far that suggests that any wrongdoing took place or that she was stoned," said the PPP leader, addressing a session of the Sindh Assembly.
"I wish to request the media and our members of the parliament not to speak on any issue without having verified the details and then go on to criticise the government.
"We must wait a little and when it comes to sensitive matters such as this, we should gather details before commenting on the matter," said Ghani.
He said that when some reporters published news of the incident, he contacted them and asked what sources they had based their reports on. "They declined naming their sources, after which I requested them to not name the source but at least divulge the details of their claims.
"Where did the jirga take place? Who called it? Who took part in it? When was this ('stoning') order passed? And how was it implemented?
"They said they would tell me but never did so," said the minister.
He reiterated that "sensitive reports like these, without verification, must never be published and circulated."
"It causes a lot of distress. The police and the government were no doubt distressed, but the family's grief was amplified when we dug the girl's grave. Of course, this is viewed by many as desecration of the grave. We had to do it just so that we can arrive at a conclusion," said the PPP leader.
Ghani said that the man accused of issuing the alleged jirga verdict is the son of a PTI leader. "If it had emerged that a PPP leader was involved, I don't know how that could have been exploited. But we demonstrated responsibility and neither did we name him nor did we try to drag him into this.
"I am not saying we did anyone any favours but we did display political responsibility and did not aim for political scoring against our opponents. Things could have played out very differently with the man in question being our political opponent, but we investigated the matter and I am presenting the facts before the House today."
He said that the final post-mortem report has not been released, and according to the provisional autopsy report and the HRCP team's findings, the girl's death was "due to a rock falling on her back".
"I apologise to the girl's father and to her mother [...] It is not our fault. Had we not carried out the exhumation, the issue would have been given a different colour."
A provisional autopsy report by a medical board concluded on Monday that the girl had died after suffering multiple fractures caused by some “heavy, hard and blunt object” and “no mark of injuries caused by stoning” was found on other parts of the body.
The girl’s father who had identified the grave had stated before the medical board that his daughter was playing with other children when a heavy stone dislodged from a nearby hill and fell on her, killing her instantly.
The HRCP team said that disputes among tribal chiefs and political bigwigs over royalty of minerals abundant in Khirthar range of mountains, especially at Karo Koat, and other incentives from oil and gas companies were found to be at play behind attempt to get the accidental death of Gul Sama portrayed as a case of honour killing by stoning.
'Dua's abductors will be brought to justice soon'
Ghani also spoke about the return on Saturday of Dua Mangi, who had been kidnapped by armed men on November 30. He acknowledged the failure of the police which led to such an incident occurring in the first place. "The chief minister has made it clear that this crime will be investigated and that the abductors will be brought to justice soon," he said.
The PPP leader said that the Mangi family had been contacted and is cooperating with the police. He expressed hope the culprits' identities will soon be unveiled.
Speaking of Haris Fatah Soomro, who was with Dua at the time of the incident and was shot at and wounded, the minister said he wishes him good health. "Haris' expenditures are being looked after by the Sindh government," he added.